When I started in the trading industry in the 90s, $2 brokers on the floor of the NYSE just started using these big handheld devices. The technology was dismissed as clunky and too advanced. However, once we all realized that the quotes were being fed directly to the market makers while simultaneously being fed upstairs, we knew a revolution had been born. Fast forward to today and we still see that in how DRW integrates our technology into trades where it makes sense.
I joined DRW in June 2016 to run the business in Asia. My very first day at DRW, I had zero meetings. Today, this seems like an implausible dream, but I wanted to spend that first day talking to people, and listening to how the business was running. What are our weaknesses? What are our strengths?
We have 35 people currently in our Singapore offices, and we’re continuing to grow. Commitment to the Asia region is evident across the board – from the partners, to the traders, to the heads of business units. DRW fosters a sense of collaboration that I haven’t seen anywhere else. We all have the same goal in mind.
My time here so far has not been without tough days – the biggest challenge is always going to be communication with the other offices. I’ve spent 16 years working to perfect the art of communication from Asia to the U.S. and I’ve been impressed with the folks in Chicago’s commitment to ensuring the lines of communication are always open.
Thinking back to my first day with zero meetings, I look at today and laugh. What was today like? Mentally stimulating. It started with a 7am conference call. I worked through a few communications issues that came up overnight between Chicago and Singapore. I picked out furniture for the new office in Singapore. I stepped out for my children’s end of year class party. Caught up with a few of the individual trading desks. Joined a conference call at 8:45 pm followed by a few more quick emails and then the day will be over.
Building up a regional office does have its upside. The autonomy and trust we are given is very motivating. We can make our own decisions to steer the region in the right direction, while maintaining the core values of the business. This takes shape culturally – hosting local team building and recruiting events – and in the way we do our business…diversification, for example. I’m not an expert in every trade, but I can tap into experts of countless domains in our offices around the globe. It’s hard not to enjoy that atmosphere.
When I joined the industry, firms were grappling with how to standardize a common protocol language for trading. I specifically remember a visit I made to the Korea Stock Exchange in early 2001 where I used a flip-chart (not even a whiteboard!) and spelled out “F-I-X” to puzzled glances. Years followed and, while the FIX Protocol began to take hold, the usage of sell-side algorithms by non-prop firms to execute was the next big thing.
There are many examples like this – where technologies or processes have become so commonplace to the industry, it can be hard to remember how we did business efficiently before them. I think as an industry, and at DRW specifically, we’re in a good place to keep solving problems and contributing to efficient markets across the globe.